By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Jefferson County voters elected Democrat Charles Todd Henderson District Attorney over incumbent Republican Brandon Falls to become the first Democrat to hold the office in nearly a generation. However, Henderson will never serve as District Attorney after being convicted of felony perjury charges, which stem from him lying to a judge. Now it falls to Gov. Kay Ivey to appoint a district attorney for the state’s most populous county.
Ivey’s spokesperson, Daniel Sparkman, informed the Alabama Political Reporter that, “Governor Ivey will take into consideration all candidates and appoint the best person for the job.”
Under state law, Section 36-9-2: Conviction of officeholder of felony vacates office; when restored to office.
When any person holding any office or place under the authority of this state is convicted by any court of the United States, of this state or of any other state of a felony, his office or place shall be vacated from the time of the conviction. If the judgment is reversed, new trial granted or judgment notwithstanding the verdict is rendered, he shall be restored to office; but, if pardoned, he shall not be restored to office.
Ivey’s obligation to fill the vacancy is found in Section 12-17-181, Filling of vacancies.
“Vacancies in the office of district attorney are filled by the Governor, the appointee to hold during the unexpired term and until his successor is elected and qualified.”
However, there is an old Local Act that provides the appointee will only serve until next election at which time there will be an election for the remainder of the term. There is an AG opinion from the 80s that provides that it is the opinion of that office that the local law is still valid.
This Local Act means whomever Ivey selects will serve only until the 2018 General Election.
Ivey’s promise to appoint the best person for the job has not eased the fears of state Democrats or tempered the hope of Republicans.
Rumors and speculations abound as political operatives jockey behind the scene to replace disgraced Henderson with a candidate of their choosing. Perhaps most notably, according to a Republican source, is a push to see Falls returned to the district attorney’s post by fiat. Falls, appointed to the position by then Gov. Bob Riley in September 2008, is seen as another cog in Riley’s machine that has fallen on hard times after the conviction of Speaker Mike Hubbard.
Even though Henderson, a Democrat, bested Falls, a Republican, by a wide margin in Jefferson County, Ivey has no legal obligation to appoint a Democrat. Even though the voice of Jefferson County voters was resoundingly clear, some believe Ivey should appoint someone from her party.
Birmingham and Jefferson County are firmly in the Democratic camp, but Ivey could upend that status with the stroke of a pen.
After Henderson’s guilty verdict, Jefferson County Presiding Judge Joseph Boohaker named Danny Carr as Interim District Attorney until the Governor makes an appointment.